The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at The University of Manchester have published a joint paper on the potential of graphene in aerospace.
In consultation with a range of stakeholders, the ATI and NGI have brought together a sector perspective of the benefits of working with graphene and the potential market opportunities available to UK aerospace companies.
Graphene – widely hailed as a wonder material since it was first isolated in 2004 and the subsequent Nobel Prize in Physics that was awarded to two Manchester scientists in 2010 – has the potential to positively impact aircraft performance, cost and fuel efficiency.
The safety and performance properties of aircraft could be significantly improved by incorporating atomically-thin graphene into existing materials used to build planes, while the reduced weight of the material could have a positive impact on the fuel efficiency of the aircraft and, as result, the environment.
In an exclusive introduction to the INSIGHT paper, Sir Richard Branson said:
The potential for graphene to solve enduring challenges within the aerospace sector presents real opportunities for the material to become disruptive, and a key enabler in future aircraft technology. We need to accelerate the opportunity for the UK to realise the benefits from graphene by creating a portfolio of graphene-related research and technology projects which if undertaken would lead to real impact in our aerospace industry.
The joint ATI and NGI paper was launched at the Materials Research Exchange 2018 by Mark Summers, Head of Technology for Manufacturing, Materials & Structures at the ATI, and James Baker, CEO of Graphene@Manchester at The University of Manchester.
Mark Summers said:
The UK has pioneered the research and development of graphene. The material has the potential to bring exciting applications and efficiencies into the sector. Although its exploitation into the aerospace sector is still in its infancy, it is anticipated that the scope of potential applications will continue to expand.
We will seek to accelerate the maturation of graphene technology opportunities through our R&T programme, in a bid for the UK to remain ahead of the challenge and continue leading on the research and exploitation of the material in aerospace.
James Baker said:
Major generational improvements in the aerospace sector have been associated with embracing new materials. Aluminium and carbon fibre have seen planes become faster, greener, cheaper with more functionality. Now graphene and related two-dimensional materials can mark the next step-change.
“By incorporating graphene into the existing materials used to manufacture planes, performance properties could be improved across number of key areas. By utilising the multi-functional properties of graphene and through collaboration between industry and academia, there are significant opportunities which can accelerate the next-generation of aerospace technologies.
The ATI and NGI are continuing to collaborate on accelerating the technology development cycle for graphene applications in the UK aerospace sector – identifying suitable opportunities for graphene and ensuring that the UK aerospace sector can leverage the material’s amazing properties to remain globally competitive.
Organisations that worked with the Aerospace Technology Institute and National Graphene Institute on the paper included the University of Central Lancashire, the Centre for Process Innovation, QinetiQ, Morson Projects Limited and Haydale Limited with input from Ekosgen.